Established in 1968 as the Cranfield Unit for Precision Engineering (CUPE), we are now internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in ultra precision machines and processes. Today the Surface Engineering and Precision Institute operates over 2000 square metres of thermally controlled precision, ultra precision, microengineering and surface structuring laboratories.

Our laboratories house many unique ultra precision research facilities designed, manufactured and built by our own leading experts.

Alongside supporting advanced manufacturing companies we also deliver research and functional systems into major science programmes of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), European Southern Observatory (ESO), European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and National Physical Laboratory (NPL). We have certified and fully traceable manufacturing and metrology systems having unequalled accuracy and scale.

We lead two major EPSRC research centres:

  • Integrated Knowledge Centre in Ultra Precision and Structured Surfaces
  • Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision

We provide doctoral training into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Ultra Precision. This DTC is operated in partnership with the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge.

About our research

Our research is the creation of ultra precision production machine systems demanded by advanced industry and major science programmes. We produce advanced systems and components for major science programmes in order to validate the claimed performance capability of the machines we create. To satisfy this demand we operate our laboratories having clear measurement traceability certification.

Our core research themes include:

• actuators and micro robotics
• advanced metrology
• diamond turning
• dynamics and control
• fluid film bearings
• grinding
• modal analysis
• photochemical machining
• plasma processing
• precision machine design
• reel to reel film handling and processing
• surface structuring.

Clients and partners

Science programmes:

• European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)
• European Space Agency (ESA)
• European Southern Observatory (ESO)
• National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
• National Physical Laboratory (NPL)
• Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).


• Advanced Optics
• Aerospace
• Defence
• Machine Tools
• Medical Devices
• Microelectronics
• Precision Production Systems
• Renewable Energy Technologies
• Structured and Active Films.